Here’s something for Atlanta Falcons fans to get excited about: Todd McShay’s latest mock draft.
The ESPN draft expert released his first-round projections Wednesday, based on the current draft order. And which player does McShay have the Falcons taking with the fifth overall selection? Believe it or not, it’s the guy plenty of Falcons diehards desire: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
In an interview in November, McShay told me that Clowney’s down year was more a result of unfairly high expectations. McShay wasn’t as quick to criticize Clowney’s work ethic as others have been.
"That doesn’t take away from him being, physically, the most dominating player in the draft," McShay said.
So why does McShay believe Clowney will be available at No. 5? Probably because the Houston Texans, with the No. 1 overall pick, need a quarterback, as do the Oakland Raiders at No. 3. The St. Louis Rams, with the No. 2 pick, already have dominant pass rush led by Robert Quinn and Chris Long. And the Jacksonville Jaguars, at No. 4, always seem to make the wrong choice.
The Falcons definitely need to revamp their pass rush, as they currently rank 24th in the league in sacks per pass attempt.
Here's McShay’s commentary on Clowney and the Falcons:
"The Falcons are in dire need of an edge rusher, and in this scenario they'll get one in the form of our No. 1-ranked prospect in the draft. There's something of a gamble involved with Clowney in that his motor ran hot and cold toward the end of the season, but he isn't a bad kid and he has the potential to develop into a double-digit sack guy, a three-down lineman and a dominant player overall. I see a lot of Julius Peppers in him; Peppers hasn't always given the best effort, but I don't know of many teams that wouldn't want him. Clowney's a tremendous value if he drops this far; if it weren't for the number of QB-needy teams picking ahead of Atlanta, he'd go earlier."